One of the most lucrative conventions in the state turns 50 today and the general manager of the JW Marriott in downtown Indianapolis says attendees — and what they’re willing to spend — are maturing, too. Phil Ray says Gen Con continues to draw repeat visitors to the city who make a vacation out of the event and have more expendable income than they did in previous years. Gen Con is marking its first-ever sellout and could exceed its 2016 economic impact number of $71 million. In an interview with Inside INdiana Business Reporter Mary-Rachel Redman, Visit Indy Vice President Chris Gahl says the Gen Con effect reaches the entire region.
The 2016 edition attracted 61,000 visitors to the Circle City and this year, organizers have spread the convention’s footprint into Lucas Oil Stadium, as well as the Indiana Convention Center, where it’s been held since 2003.
Ray says the profile of Gen Con attendees has changed. He adds they used to be "more of the younger or young professionals, and it wasn’t seen as much of a lucrative group, because they wouldn’t spend as much money. They were going to Steak n’ Shake. They were doing the Mountain Dew and their snacks." He says now "many of them are earning six figures and they treat this as a vacation for them. They come and it’s like their World Series. So it’s gone from where they don’t spend as much, to now they spend quite a bit more."
Last year, Seattle-based Gen Con LLC extended its contract, keeping the event in Indianapolis through 2021. The organization is also moving forward with new leadership, announcing this week President David Hoppe, who was hired in March — has been named chief executive officer.
Gen Con officially kicks of Thursday in Indianapolis and runs through Sunday.